Why Does Disability Employment Awareness Month Matter?

by | Aug 4, 2015

Imagine there was an annual, month-long event which recognized and promoted employment inclusion for people with disabilities. What a perfect opportunity for service providers and inclusive employers to promote their successes in creating and maintaining workplaces that welcome everyone. We could support, promote and participate in such an event, raise awareness and maybe, little by little, help to foster and nurture cultures of inclusion right across the nation. If only…

We might just need to wake up and smell the inclusion. The opportunity for us to promote and celebrate our success stories in inclusive employment is upon us!

Disability Employment Awareness Month (DEAM), celebrated in October, originated in the United States and was intended to promote employment inclusion for veterans who had been injured during World War Two. Many years later, the community inclusion and supported employment movements for people with intellectual disabilities were born and DEAM became an annual opportunity to celebrate employment inclusion for this population as well.

Over the last 35 – 40 years the benefits of employment participation for all people with disabilities have been recognized within the human service and policy communities as reflective of social justice as well as good social policy and ‘return on investment’ for public spending. There are a couple of important considerations at this particular point in history however which present something of a ‘tipping point’ and make promotional opportunities like DEAM more important than ever.

The current Diversity and Inclusion Movement is a significant business trend with a lot of political will and business leadership behind it. This presents opportunity for increased engagement between employment service providers and employers. Diversity and Inclusion, while a relatively new concept for many employers and human resource professionals, has been an area of expertise for many in the Alberta service provider community for over twenty years. It’s time to leverage that expertise.

The statistics on employment participation for people with disabilities haven’t moved much in 20 years. It’s an understatement to say that our work as advocates and facilitators of employment inclusion is not yet done and we’re certainly no closer to “working ourselves out of a job” than we were the first time that phrase was uttered. This needs to be addressed at a community level and at a policy level. It’s time to turn up the volume on inclusion issues.

DEAM presents the opportunity to celebrate the contributions of workers with disabilities, acknowledge business leaders demonstrating workplace inclusion and promote the success stories and inspired work of service providers. Canadians need to know about the struggle for employment inclusion that people with disabilities face. DEAM is the perfect opportunity to show them. What will you do this October?